Friday 30 August 2019

A new toy

I've recently updated my version of Chessbase, and have been playing around with the Analysis function. Previously I used to us Fritz to 'auto annotate' my games, but this is now built into Chessbase as well. Looking at a very old game of mine, it threw up an older game, which I had been accidentally following up until move 10. As the ending of both games was reasonably similar I thought I share it.

Heilpern - Pick [C44]
Wien Vienna, 1910

Thursday 29 August 2019

Lots of travel for a bit of chess

Starting early next week I will be off on one of the stranger chess adventures I have ever had. My first port of call is Honiara, in the Solomon Islands, to run a FIDE Arbiters training course. The day after that finishes I am off to Khanty-Mansiysk for the 2019 World Cup, going via Brisbane, Dubai and Moscow. While the first part of the trip was planned months ago, the second half of the trip only came about in somewhat strange circumstances.
GM Max Illingworth was the original representative from the Oceania Zone, by virtue of winning the 2019 Oceania Zonal. However, due to personal circumstances he was unable to attend the World Cup, which meant the runner up could go in his place. I was the runner up! So with very short notice I had to organise visa's and travel, which fortunately I was able to do.
Given the way the seeding system works, my first round opponent  is Ding Liren. This is obviously a tough pairing for me (not so much for him), but hopefully I can put up a fight. I would joke that I am heartened by the number of draws he had at the just completed Sinqufeld Cup, but the fact he has just finished equal first has convinced me not to.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Pal Benko

Pal Benko has passed away at the age of 91. One of the last links between the pre and post Fischer era's, he was not only a Grandmaster, but a prolific problem composer and writer. Born in France, he grew up in Hungary, before defecting in 1957. Settling in the United States he was a regular on the tournament circuit, winning the US Open 8 times and qualifying for Candidates tournament twice. However it was one tournament he did not play in, the 1970 Interzonal, that may have been the most significant, as he gave up his spot to Bobby Fischer, who went on to win the World Championship in that cycle.
He visited Australia to play in the 1985/86 Australian Open, and then visited a number of other cities and events (including a simul in Canberra IIRC). While he did not win the Australian Open (Guy West finished first), he did play a nice attacking game against Kevin Harrison.

Benko,Pal - Harrison,Kevin [B53]
Australian Open 1984-85

Monday 26 August 2019

The draw offer

One reason why I've missed a couple of days of blogging (apart from laziness!) is that I've been watching the 3rd Ashes Test. An amazing finish, with England winning by 1 wicket. And while it isn't within the rules of cricket, I was left pondering the following question "If draw offers were allowed, when should Australia have offered one, and would England have accepted?"

Friday 23 August 2019


If you are looking for a 'causal' alternative to chess, then try the 'Chesses' suite of games at There are a number of variants here including 'Gravity Chess' which was featured on a number of recent tech sites. There is no AI for any of the games, so to try them out, you need to play yourself. As part of the fun is discovering the rules yourself, I won't spoil it too much for you, but I will admit to winning/losing a game of 'Chance' in one move! (Hint: 1.e4 is a dangerous move for white)

Thursday 22 August 2019

The playing arbiter

I do my best to avoid playing and arbiting the same tournament. The main reason is that being an arbiter distracts me from being a player, and my chess results suffer. The other problem is that if you have an issue on your own game, making a ruling can be difficult.
Such was the case in a game I played yesterday. I am running events at the Canberra Chess Club while their usual arbiter is taking a holiday. As there was an odd number of players I stepped in as the 'house player' After sorting everyone else out I sat down to my game. My opponent asked me to check the clock as he wasn't sure it had been set correctly, but it *looked* fine to me (The clocks at the club are usually left with the setting from the previous round). The game proceeded normally until we reached move 31. At this point I noticed my opponent had forgotten to press his clock and with 5 seconds left, I did not wish to win this way. So I pointed this out, and when he did not react, I pressed his side and played my final move. I then realised he had not received his extra 30s and deduced that this clock had been set incorrectly (ie 90m but no increment). So I stopped the clock, and explained to him what had happened. As it was my responsibility (as arbiter) to ensure the clock had the correct setting, I felt that one option was to offer him a draw. As the other choices included adding on the missing time, but leaving him in a lost position, he chose to take the half point.

Press,Shaun - Jones,Mitchell [B22]
Memorial Cup, 21.08.2019

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Leonard Barden turns 90

Happy birthday to Leonard Barden, who turns 90 years old today. While remembered mainly for his longevity as a chess columnist, he was one of England's top players in the 1950's and 60's, playing in 4 Olympiads. Significantly he has a 'Morphy Number' of 3, having played Jacques Mieses in 1948, with Mieses playing Henry Bird in 1899, and Bird playing Morphy in the 1858.
The following game was played early in Barden's career, and was considered by himself as one of his favourites. It also contributed to the theory of the Two Knights Defence, with 10.Qe4 now considered the refutation of 5. ... Nxd5 line.

Barden,Leonhard William - Adams,Weaver Warren [C57]
Hastings 5051 Hastings (3), 1950

Monday 19 August 2019

Knowing the tricks

White to move
One of the differences between new chess players (especially in competition) and experienced players, is that the experienced player knows more 'tricks'. These can be simple tactical tricks like 'capture then fork' or Philidor's Legacy (Queen and Knight smothered mate), or more subtle ideas in the ending.
One example occurred recently in a quickplay game I was watching. Black had come back from a piece down to reach this ending, but was unaware of the winning idea when you have pawns one file apart. After 1.Ke2 he started off correctly by pushing the b pawn with 1. ... b4. After 2.Kd2 the winning idea is keep the pawns a knight move apart eg 2 ... d4 3.Kc2 Kf6 (Black has enough time to catch the h pawn) 4.Kb3 d3! If White takes the b pawn the d pawn queens. So 5.Kb2 Kg4 6.Kc1 b3! 7.Kd2 b2 and the b pawn promotes.
Unfortunately Black was probably unaware of this trick and thought his only winning chance was to promote the d pawn with the help of the king. As a result the h pawn was able to queen before this could happen, and White then won quite easily.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Waking up to this

The 2019 Sinquefeld Cup is starting shortly, and with the time zone difference between St Louis and Canberra, the games will be underway when I awake in the morning. I've already had a bit of a warm up, with the St Louis Rapid and Blitz running over the last few days. Unfortunately for me, one of the first games I saw was the following win by Liren Ding over Fabiano Caruana!

Ding,Liren (2805) - Caruana,Fabiano (2818) [A25]
Saint Louis Blitz 2019 Saint Louis USA (9.5), 13.08.2019

Friday 16 August 2019

Stopping the 4 move checkmate

I, like so many new players, suffered the indignity of losing to the 4 move checkmate early in my career. It happened in a school chess competition, and I was so shocked and annoyed, that I spent the next class drawing a chess board in the back of an exercise book, and then moving the pieces using pencil and eraser until I worked out what had happened.
Fortunately technology is now sufficiently advanced that we have computers that do this for us. And the theory of the 4 move checkmate has moved forward as well, with a strong GM demonstrating the correct defence when confronted with the opening.

Carlsen,Magnus (2882) - Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2763) [C20]
Saint Louis Blitz 2019 Saint Louis USA (7.3), 13.08.2019

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Vale Richard Voon

Richard (Dick) Voon, one of Australian Chess's more colourful characters has passed away in Melbourne. He had been a constant figure on the chess scene throughout my time at the board, being a regular competitor in the Doeberl Cup, and often turning up unexpectedly at other far flung chess event. When I first started playing he was a good 2000+ rated player, and his strength did not fall much below that for most of his career. He was a keen blitz player, and often he was the last player out of the tournament hall, protesting as the organisers packed up for the night.
His blitz skills did prove useful on occasion, especially in the days of no-increment chess. In a 40 moves in 90 minute event back in the 80's, he had only reached move 15 with his flag hanging, and needed to play the next 25 moves in around 60 seconds. As his opponent still had over an hour on the clock, Voon was trapped at the board for that time, having the reply instantly to whatever move was made. Apparently he did manage to make it to move 40 with seconds to spare, and went on to draw the game!
Dick Voon will be missed by the Australian chess community, who will be poorer for his passing.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Maintaining tension

IM Bill Hartston once commented that the the player who has the choice between pushing a pawn or exchanging it usually has the initiative in the centre. Implied in this comment is doing one or the other then dissipates this initiative.
This game from the 2019 NSWCA August Weekender is an example of this. On Move 12 White played c4, which actually helped Black a bit (12.Ne3 was more testing). Black could have maintained the tension with moves like Ne7 and Bb7, but instead pushed the d pawn immediately. With the centre now locked up, White had a free hand to start attacking on the king side, which she did with h4. Manoeuvring the knight to f6 was the next part of the plan, and after Blacked erred by not immediately exchanging it off, a piece sacrifice was enough to decide the result.

Chibnall,Alana - Clarke,Matthew [A08]
2019 NSWCA August Weekender (5.4), 11.08.2019

Sunday 11 August 2019

Outsourcing from Canberra

It is a popular election promise to 'take jobs from Canberra' by getting staff to move from the nations capital, to rural areas (ignoring the fact that more federal public servants live in Sydney than anywhere else). But while there are a number of good reasons why a centralised public sector works better than a distributed one (concentration of talent, the ability to exchange staff and ideas, better recruitment pool, dispatching people from Canberra has other effects.
Fred Litchfield journeyed from the cold cold winter of Canberra, to the warmth of Queensland, and played in the 2019 Bundaberg Open. Seeded 6th behind 4 IM's and a WIM, he won the event with a very impressive 5.5/6. After starting with 2 wins, he played the 4 IM's over the final 4 rounds, scoring 3.5/4. He drew with IM Stephen Solomon (in round 5), and beat IM Alex Wohl, IM Brodie McClymont and IM Peter Froelich. Solomon and McClymont  tied for 2nd on 5/6, in a field of 42 players.
Litchfield's win over Wohl started his charge to the finish. Wohl offered a pawn in the opening, and then dropped one in the middlegame. This looked to unsettle him as a bigger blunder occurred soon after, and faced with ruinous material loss, he resigned.

Litchfield,Fred - Wohl,Alex [D32]
Bundaberg Open, 10.08.2019

DIY Chess Clock

One of the many unfinished (or unstarted) projects on my to do list, was building my own digital chess clock. I'd first thought about this in the early 1980's, but it never got beyond the concept stage, as I have no talent for basic electronics.
As components have become cheaper and more accessible, it has in fact become easier to pull this off. And rather than it being a heavy duty construction activity, a trip to the local electronics store should allow to by all the parts you need.
As for the actual building of a chess clock, this article "How to make a Chess clock with Arduino" provides you with the details. As the Arduino is programmable, you can extend the features of the clock if you wish, adding other time controls and playing modes if needed.

Friday 9 August 2019

Street Chess with a chance of snow

Snowfalls are quite rare in Canberra, especially for a city where winter mornings often start below zero. However, tomorrow may see snowfalls in the morning, especially as there have been brief falls this evening. If so, I hope to get some good pictures of Street Chess being played out in the snow, as this has been something I've hoped to do for the last 20 years or so.
But even if it doesn't, dress warm and come along anyway!

Thursday 8 August 2019

Two piece or not two piece

It is fairly rare that giving up for two pieces for a rook and pawn is the right idea. I learnt this lesson a long time ago, but for some reason such an exchange still tempts me. During a recent club game I entered a variation where I had to decide between retreating a bishop, or giving up knight and bishop for rook and pawn. Ordinarily this would be a clear cut decision in favour of retreat, but it still took me quite a while to make this choice.  Fortunately this turned out to be the correct move, and taking advantage of the location of my opponents rook, I was able to find a winning tactic a few moves later.

Patterson,Miles - Press,Shaun [A29]
Korda Classic, 06.08.2019

Wednesday 7 August 2019

The Fifty-Percenter

This recent miniature from the Belt and Road tournament in China, is an example of what is known as the 'Fifty-Percenter'. Black tries a sharp attacking idea which only leaves him with a totally lost position. At this point normal moves do not work, so he tries one last trick, with 15... Qg1+ Now if chess was a game where moves were chosen randomly, then there is a 50% chance that 16.Rxg1?? would be played. As it isn't (well for most of us anyway), White chose 16.Kxg1 and Black resigned.

Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2638) - Wei,Yi (2737) [A33]
Belt and Road Hunan Op A Changsha CHN (5.2), 02.08.2019

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Value your trophies

The ACT Chess Association and the ACT Junior Chess League are organising a teams rapid event in Canberra on Sunday 22nd September. Part of the planning is deciding on trophies, medals and other prizes. Fortunately the traditional trophy for teams events in Canberra, the Larko Cup, has been sitting in my study for the past decade, waiting for this tournament to be revived.
I suspect that a number of chess trophies are in a similar situation, sitting in someones garage, study or lock up, half forgotten, and waiting for a chance to be re presented. Indeed some neglected trophies  may turn out to have more than just sentimental value.
Recently a friend of mine recovered some trophies for a teams event that went back over 100 years. They were taken to be tidied up and valued, and in true "Antique Roadshow" style, were appraised at around 80,000 pounds. In part this because of their historical value, but more likely, because they had both a high silver content, and were made by silversmiths of great renown. Now that their true value is know, I suspect they have been moved from the boot of my fiends car, and have been placed somewhere far more secure.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Bird is not the word

The 2019 British Championship finishes this evening (Canberra time), and GM Michael Adams currently leads on 6.5/8. There are 3 players half a point behind him, including IM Richard Palliser. While Palliser is probably better known as an author and opening analyst, he is a more than capable player as well. In round 8 he faced GM Daniel Fernandez (currently residing in Sydney, Australia) and played an aggressive line against the Bird's. 4.g3 seems to be the start of White's problems, and by move 7 Black was winning.
Other players with an Australian connection in this event are GM Justin Tan and IM Gary Lane. Tan has had a good tournament (including draws with Adams and Howell) and is on 5/8. A loss in round 8 derailed IM Gary Lane's hoped for a good finish, and he is currently on 4/8.

Fernandez,Daniel Howard (2466) - Palliser,Richard J D (2399) [A02]
106th ch-GBR 2019 Torquay ENG (8.4), 03.08.2019

Friday 2 August 2019


While I discover this more by accident than by design, Eurosport TV is carrying more an more chess as part of its regular programming. This evening saw coverage of the recent Grand Prix event from Riga, and they will also cover the upcoming Hamburg and Tel Aviv events. As these shows are often repeated (for a while), you might be able to catch them over the next couple of weeks.
Even if you don't you can get their other chess coverage at

Thursday 1 August 2019

Cruelty at the chessboard

Black to play
The shown position occurred during the final round of a local interschool event yesterday. Black was playing someone from the same school, and was on a perfect score (6/6). With a large group of spectators gathered around, he decided to play to the crowd with 1. ... e3 After White played 2.hxg6 he even let out a little 'Oh!' as though he misplayed the ending. Of course he hadn't, and he quickly played what he had planned to all along, 2. ... e2 3.g7 e1=R 4.g8=Q Rf1+ 5.Kg3 Rg1+ winning the queen on g8.